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Full text of "My Country And My People"

306          MY    COUNTRY    AND    MY    PEOPLE

papers, in old porcelain, in great paintings, and in all the old
knick-knacks not yet touched by the modern influence. One
cannot fondle the beautiful old books or see the scholars'
letter-papers without seeing that man's spirit in old China had
an understanding of tone and harmony and mellow colours.
Only two or three decades ago there was still a time when men
wore gowns of the ducks'-egg green, and women wore mauve,
and when cripe de Chine was really crtpe de Chine, and good red
ink-pad for the seal still had a market. Now the whole silk
industry has collapsed recently because artificial silk is so much
cheaper, and it washes so well, and good red ink-pad, costing
thirty-two dollars an ounce, has no market because it has given
place to purple ink for rubber stamps.

This ancient geniality is best reflected in the Chinese familiar
essay, hsiaop'inwen, which is the product of the Chinese spirit
at play. The pleasures of a leisurely life are its eternal themes.
Its subject-matter covers the art of drinking tea, the carving of
seals and the appreciation of the cuts and the quality of the
stones, the training of pot-flowers and the caring for orchids,
boating on the lake, climbing historically famous mountains,
visiting ancient beauties* tombs, composing poetry under the
moon and looking at a storm on a high mountain—all written
in a style leisurely and chatty and suave, as disarmingly hos-
pitable as a friend's chat by the fireside and as poetically
disorderly as the recluse's dress, a style trenchant and yet
mellow, like good old wine. And through it all pervades the
spirit of man happy with himself and the universe, poor in
possessions but rich in sentiments and discriminating in taste,
experienced and full of worldly wisdom and yet simple-
hearted, a bottle of emotions and yet apparently indifferent
to all the outside world, cynically contented and wisely idle,
loving simplicity and good material living. This spirit of geniality
is best seen in the Preface to All Men Are Brothers., attributed to
the author, but really forged by the great seventeenth-century
critic, Ch'in Shengt'an. This Preface, in itself an excellent ex-
ample of the Chinese familiar essay regarding both manner and
matter, reads like an essay on Leisure, and the amazing thing
is that it was intended by its author as a preface to a novel.1
1 See translation by Pearl S. Buck in All Men Are Brothers, John Day, 1933,